Seven Quick Takes: How to Survive February

February has always been a hard homeschooling month for me.  We’re not far enough through any curriculum to feel like we’re in the home stretch, and yet it feels like we’ve been going forever. It took me years to figure out that it wasn’t just me, or just because I homeschooled. February is the month that my friends whose kids are in traditional school ask, “Could I enroll my kid in your school?” February is deep in the throes of work, weather, and whining. February is hard.

So anyway, here’s what we’re doing to keep our sanity during the longest shortest month.

One: Stick to the routine.

February is not the month to jettison the math book in favor of the new, shiny program with $1500 of consumables you just found online. It may be true that you need a new math program, but February isn’t the month to make that decision.

My sixth-grader always dreads doing her dyslexia program, but once we’re actually in the midst of it, she says, “This isn’t so bad.” Yes, it’s hard. Yes, I am seeing slow (incremental) progress. Yes, we keep it up. Here and there I have shortened it for the day, but we are staying the course.

When we hold the course, somehow we turn the corner into March and find ourselves “mostly done” with all sorts of things. All that incremental progress has paid off. Read-aloud books wrap up, we realize we’re near the end of the math book, and we start working on recital pieces in music. All of that seems impossible in February.

Two: Chunk it. “Chunking” (not to be confused with chucking or crunking) is breaking a large goal into small, manageable pieces.

Right now both my high schoolers are staring down the barrel of multiple AP exams.  They have heavy loads. They do so much better when I (or they) break down their weekly tasks into specific assignments of reading, review, taking practice tests, etc.

Three: Move more. Even fifteen minutes outside is enough to warm me up and change how I look at my day and my life.

In December I had been struggling with motivating myself to exercise. I know in my head it’s good for me, but I just couldn’t get going.  I was starting to have all sorts of random aches and pains, which is usually a sign I need to move my body more. But it was cold and dark, and I wanted to be warm on the couch.

The view from a recent run.

So my BRF and I signed up for a race this spring, so now I have to get off the couch and little by little, put in the miles. (There’s that chunking again.)

Four: Simplify. In the dark of winter, I find meal planning and prep is harder for me. February is a good time to cook double and stick half in the freezer to pull out later.

I’ve also resorted to pulling out past years’ meal plans so that one part of the task is already done for me.

2017: puzzle while we listened to The Martian by Andy Weir

Likewise, if you’re struggling, February is a great time to pull out the audiobooks and a puzzle to work on together as a family, instead of trying to do a huge hands-on history project like the great Chicken Mummification Debacle of 2015.

Five: Focus on fun. (I know this seems to be contradicting #2, but work with me here.)

Our weekly poetry tea is one of the most fun parts of our week. This month is no exception. Last week we used my mother’s Palestinian pottery tea set, and the girls made a delicious tea for us at home while I took a nap. Yesterday we went to the Milkshake Lab for our “tea.”

Why yes, that is a bag of PopRocks dangling from a milkshake
by glow sticks and slap bracelets.

In past years, we have stripped February’s routine to the bare bones (only math and reading, for example) in order to add skiing and adventure days into the mix. This February happens to include a few weekend trips for me and another for Sam and our sixth-grader. Instead of trying to cram five days of work into four so we can travel, we’re just letting those days go.

Maybe you have the energy for a unit study this month. Last February we did a unit study on chocolate and Central America. It doesn’t have to be elaborate to be fun.

At the Botanic Gardens looking for chocolate plants.

Six: Look for beauty.

Hang up your kids’ art, especially if the colors are bright. Treat yourself to fresh flowers from the grocery store.  Put the bowl of lemons and oranges out on the table. Set a candle next to the math book. These things mean more to me in February than in September.

They’re also a part of the highly-hyped Hygge that I can’t pronounce but totally see the wisdom of.  (An aside: why are we not worried about cultural appropriation from the Danes?)

Seven: Be gentle with yourself. Take a few days off (and don’t use them for cleaning!)

Sometimes February is just a low part in the year’s cycle; sometimes it’s more. If February blues are more than just blues, don’t beat yourself up. Ask for help. None of your current plans or curricula are more important than your mental health.

What are your ways to beat the February Blues?

One thought on “Seven Quick Takes: How to Survive February

  1. Love all of these tips. On our weekly work calls we share what our current energizer or drainer is and lately I’ve either been saying, “Filling out forms for the government” or “February” for my drainers. I think I book ALL of my trips for the year in February.

    Also this: “An aside: why are we not worried about cultural appropriation from the Danes?” Is a fantastic question. Let’s talk about this next time we have Thai/Italian/Soggy Sweet Potato Fries/Whatever together.


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